Nadab And Abihu

John Pat Gibbons

Leviticus 10:1-2 -"[1] And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. [2] And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD."

This is the short record of two priests of God who did not obey God in the thing they were ordained to do: burn incense to God. It was the obligation of the common priest to daily offer incense, light the lamp stand, and assist in other sacrifices made by the people. Nadab and Abihu were doing what they were told to do. They were the right people, doing the right thing, doing it in the right place, but doing it in the wrong way. This example illustrates the way God reacts when his people fail to do what He has said.

In this passage it is said that they "offered strange fire." It was strange fire because it did not come from the right place. Lev. 16:12 "And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:" Note that the fire for this offering came from the brazen altar at the opening to the tabernacle. The established order was fire in a censer, a hand full of incense, and it to be brought inside. Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire," meaning from a common place. It was not the sacred fire that was commanded. Though the command to use fire from the brazen altar is not found before this event, it is evidently the rule that is inferred in the statement: "which he commanded them not." They did not follow God's order in their worship, so God slew them for their disobedience; and when they rejected heavenly fire, they were slain by fire from heaven. (The fire from the brazen altar was itself fire from heaven. Lev. 9:24 "And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. Lev. 6:12-13 "[12] And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. [13] The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.")

There are two things we need to note about this event. First, there is no commandment saying that they should NOT use fire from a common, non-sacred, source. There was a required source for the fire as is stated in Lev. 16:12. The Bible does not have to say "Thou shalt not," for a thing to be wrong. The positive command authorizing fire from the brazen altar was enough to eliminate all other fire, and to use such was wrong. In making application of this principle to the New Testament church, we learn that the use of instrumental music is wrong even though there is no command forbidding such. It is wrong simply because it is not authorized by God.

Second, God punishes disobedience. Nadab and Abihu died when fire from heaven devoured them. This reveals the way God regarded disobedience to His law then, and the same principle applies to men today. Thus, the lesson: "It pays to follow God, it pays to obey God." When we obey, we can expect to be blessed. When we disobey, we can expect to be punished.

By inference, there is another lesson from this event. The priests were forbidden to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle to do God's service. Lev. 10:8-9 "[8] And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, [9] Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations." It is very possible that Nadab and Abihu acted under the influence of intoxicating drink. The lesson would be that we must not allow our thinking to be clouded by strong drink that would lead to serious consequences. 119 Holden St., Rogersville, AL 35652.


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